Men Are Joining the Fight Too
Grant Washnok and Kansas Middletent have never met.
But that matters little in this story.
It’s what connects them that does.
The pair represents a growing number of men coming forward to support the work of Call to Freedom.
For Washnok it all started with NPR broadcasts about human trafficking. Around that time, his aunt mentioned Call to Freedom which he googled, learned about the monthly luncheons, and decided to attend one. He’s been volunteering ever since.
In late July, Washnok served as an Ambassador, distributing informational posters and pass-along cards at rest areas, truck stops, convenience stores, and hotels along I-29 and I-90. Ahead of the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally, the materials gave tips to identify trafficking and ways to report it.
A resident of Brandon, Washnok was assigned the northeast portion of the Sioux Falls area where he found that folks were receptive to his visits.
“It isn’t hard for people to see how human trafficking affects everyone,” says Washnok. “I had hoped to take my daughter along to pass out posters, but it didn’t work out. Knowing how young most ofthe victims are, you can’t help but want your own kids to be informed.”
This was Call to Freedom’s first coordinated effort to spread awareness before a major event. Communities from Sioux City to Sioux Falls and Worthington, MN to Chamberlain were identified and canvased.
Middletent lives near Chamberlain. As a member of the Lower Brule Tribe and through his work with Native Hope — an organization that draws on the storytelling culture of Native people to dismantle barriers, bring healing, and inspire hope —, Middletent has seen firsthand the rise of human trafficking.
“My people don’t always believe it’s happening at the high rate that it is so there’s a lot wendo to educate them,” says Middletent. “Native people struggle with poverty, suicide, and drug and alcohol abuse. They’re vulnerable — especially our women — so they’re more easily coerced.”
Middletent’s concern is legitimate — sixty-five percent of the women Call to Freedom serves are native, which is why CTF was a natural collaborator for the July 29 event that Native Hope spearheaded at the Dignity statue in Chamberlain.
Like the work of CTF’s Ambassadors, the gathering was timed ahead of the opening of the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally on August 3. The evening unified native and non-native people in the fight against human trafficking and domestic violence and aimed to encourage men in particular to play an active role in protecting women from this crime.
“We need men to be involved,” says Middletent, a family man who credits his grandma and adoptive mom for being the catalysts for his conviction. “Native or not, this issue doesn’t discriminate. It’s important that we champion the women in our lives and challenge other men to stand up, too.”
Washnok, also a husband and father, would agree. “Human trafficking affects everyone, especially once you learn how it comes about and the ways vulnerable people are targeted,” he says. “I believe that this is going to be a major issue for South Dakota so the sooner we get after it, the sooner the solution will come.”
Call to Freedom will continue collaborating with Native Hope to better serve the Native population. CTF also plans to mobilize a second canvasing effort before the hunting season opener October 20. Want to lend a hand as an Ambassador? Drop a line to [email protected] to get signed up.